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Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018

  • Text
  • October
  • Toronto
  • Arts
  • Choir
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Concerts
  • Performing
  • Orchestra
  • Theatre
Presenters, start your engines! With TIFF and "back-to-work" out of the way, the regular concert season rumbles to life, and, if our Editor's Opener can be trusted, "Seeking Synergies" seems to be the name of the game. Denise Williams' constantly evolving "Walk Together Children" touching down at the Toronto Centre for the Arts; the second annual Festival of Arabic Music and Arts expanding its range; a lesson in Jazz Survival with Steve Wallace; the 150 presenter and performer profiles in our 19th annual Blue Pages directory... this is an issue that is definitely more than the sum of its parts.

world of Schumann’s

world of Schumann’s Träumerei and the Bach C-major fugue already heard. He also ties together another pair of works by Bach and Shostakovich. Mostly interestingly, he steps more fully into his role as composer/performer in a combination of the now-familiar Bach Prelude in C Major BWV846 and the Shostakovich Prelude in C Major Op.87, blending the harmonic progression of the latter with the rhythmic patterns of the former. It’s a creatively curious exercise and should spark some discussion among cognoscenti. Matei Varga’s latest recording Early Departures (sonoluminus.nativedsd.com/ albums/DSL92223-early-departures) pays homage to pianists who died young and whose potential remained unfulfilled. Not all the names in the program are well known. Varga’s performance of their work is a welcome document on great talents we might have watched grow into towering maturity. Tudor Dumitrescu, for example, killed at the age of 19 in the 1997 earthquake that struck Bucharest, was, by a few recorded accounts, another Van Cliburn. His 7 Preludes, Preludes in C Sharp Minor and B Minor are heartfelt works revealing a fluid writing style, and profound understanding of his instrument. His emotional maturity is striking. Regardless of whether his future would have evolved as a composer or a performer, the world is poorer for having lost him. Dinu Lipatti lived to age 33. While he made his reputation principally as a brilliant performer, his deeper desire was to compose. His 15 works represent a variety of forms. Among his piano compositions are two works included on this disc as world premiere recordings: The Little Suite: Prelude, WoO B.35 and the Sonata Romantica, WoO B.13. Another dimension of early loss is the grief of surviving parents. Hence Varga’s inclusion of Janáček’s In The Mists. The composer wrote this brief four-movement suite in the wake of his 21-year-old daughter’s death from typhoid fever. Varga appropriately includes J.S. Bach’s serenely simple Adagio from the Concerto in D Minor, BWV 974 as the closing track in this homage. Organist Tom Winpenny plays the organ of Église Saint-Martin, Luxembourg in his latest recording, Messiaen – Livre d’orgue (Naxos 8.573845 naxos.com). The instrument dates from 1912 and is a synthesis of the German symphonic and French Romantic organbuilding styles. It’s a big instrument with 85 ranks over 5 divisions. Winpenny’s choice for the opening track is the Verset pour la Fête de la Dédicace. Messiaen composed it in 1960 as a test piece for the Paris Conservatory. While it opens with a plainsong Alleluia, the piece is intended as an essay in birdsong. Winpenny has a field day pulling the organ’s most colourful stops for the effects the composer wanted. This recording of it is a world premiere, as is the CD’s final track, the Love Theme from Tristan and Isolde which Messiaen wrote as incidental music for a play. The Livre d’orgue is as challenging for the listener as it is for the performer. Its seven movements require more than just impressive keyboard technique. The registration demands (orchestral colours) are complex and nearly overwhelming. Computerized, programmable registration is a welcome feature and this instrument has it. Winpenny masters the technical issues as well as the intellectual ones. Multiple thematic lines of varying tempi, texture and structure challenge the ear, especially with music that is starkly out of its ecclesiastical context. Nothing here for the faint of heart. Anna and Dmitri Shelest make a welcome return to this column with their latest recording, Ukrainian Rhapsody (Sorel Classics SC CD 011 sorelmusic.org/Sorel/ Recordings). As a piano duo they occupy less than half the disc, giving the majority of the program to Anna alone for some rarely heard works by Ukrainian composers. Mykola Lysenko, an avid collector of Ukrainian folk music, wrote the Suite on Ukrainian Themes Op.2 on the model of the Baroque dance suite. Its Toccata and Scherzo are particularly impressive for the relentless energy and sparkle Anna Shelest brings to them. While more contemporary, Levko Revutsky’s voice is still post-Romantic with the exception of his highly attractive Waltz in B-flat Minor. Anna recognizes the modern twists in the piece and lets it lean a little in the direction of music theatre. The really impressive tracks on the disc are the Three Extravagant Dances for piano four hands by Myroslav Skoryk. With fancifully cumbersome titles like Blues: Almost American, Can-Can: as from an Old Gramophone Plate, and Entrance and Dance: Almost Spanish- Moorish, these three pieces are huge. The writing is big, dense and loud – very loud. This is raw pianism and as thrilling as four hands performance can get. Be warned – it will knock you right off your seat! VOCAL Un Sospiro – Italian Art Songs Julie Nesrallah; Caroline Leonardelli Cen Classics CEN1469 (carolineleonardelli.com) !! It is wonderful to hear distinguished Canadian mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah together with celebrated harpist Caroline Leonardelli perform the Italian art song repertoire. In this disc’s opening Bellini group, Nesrallah’s rich, secure voice brings ardent expression to these three love lyrics of which Lovely moon, you who shed silver light shines with melodic appeal. As with the disc’s other songs, the original piano accompaniments are replaced by fine harp arrangements, many by Leonardelli, that lend a dignified antique ambience. In Verdi’s setting of Gretchen’s prayer to the Virgin Mary (Oh, with mercy) from Goethe’s Faust, Nesrallah contributes dramatic power and vocal colour to the heartfelt plea. I particularly appreciate hearing both artists bring to life song groups by Puccini and Leoncavallo, each of which includes a mattinata (morning song). Puccini’s (Sun and love) is throughcomposed and has a gorgeous melody, while Leoncavallo’s cheerful romance, Mattinata, is in a more popular style with verse-andrefrain structure and conventional harmony. Song composer Paolo Tosti is also known for his lighter style, and yet the two examples here make me wonder, especially his setting of d‘Annunzio’s Lasciami! It attains the peak of impassioned vocalism in Nesrallah’s interpretation, echoed by Leonardelli’s concluding harp solo. Following this work is Monteverdi’s well-known Lasciatemi morire (Arianna’s Lament), perhaps suggesting the high level of Tosti. Early songs by Respighi, including the uncanny Nebbie (Mist), are yet another revelation on this CD – highly recommended! Roger Knox Concert note: Julie Nesrallah and Caroline Leonardelli celebrate the release of Un Sospiro in concert at Gallery 345 on October 21. 70 | October 2018 thewholenote.com

Chansons d’amour d’Acadie et de France Choeur Louisbourg; Skye Consort; Monique Richard ATMA ACD2 2776 (atmaclassique.com) !! New Brunswick’s Louisbourg Choir celebrated its tenth anniversary in this collaboration with the Skye Consort, a gifted early music ensemble whose mandate is to craft their own contemporary arrangements of seldom-heard vocal and instrumental pieces. For the first section of this recording, citternplayer Seán Dagher has arranged a number of charming selections from the Chansons folkloriques d’Acadie-La fleur du rosier and Chansons d’Acadie collections. Songs of love, travel, adventure and everyday life are delightfully and unreservedly performed by this accomplished choir, interspersed with spirited instrumentals by the ensemble. The second half of the recording features chansons by little-known composer Jacotin Le Bel (1495-1556), who served in the royal court of France during the reigns of François I and Henri II. Here, the choir shines as director Monique Richard deftly leads them through the complexities of vocal polyphony and luxuriant voicings reminiscent of Josquin des Prés. In these renderings, one appreciates the small size of the chorus. With four or five to each vocal part, the singers are better able to navigate the fluidity of long melismas and realize greater clarity of text. Again, the Skye Consort intersperses with enchanting interludes. Dianne Wells Bethany Beardslee sings Schubert; Schumann; Brahms Bethany Beardslee; Richard Goode; Lois Shapiro Bridge Records 9504 (bridgerecords.com) !! The American soprano Bethany Beardslee, perhaps best known for her work with many of the major figures of 20th-century composition – most notably her interpretations of the work of the Second Viennese school and the American composer Milton Babbitt – tackles a decidedly Romantic compositional set on this 2018 Bridge release of a set of mid-1980s recordings. Although Beardslee is on record eschewing music that is simply entertainment and for the masses (articulating a similar proclamation to the 19th-century French slogan “Art for Art’s Sake” with her 1961 declaration, “Music is for the musicians”), Beardslee reveals herself to be a sensitive and appropriate interpreter of these Romantic-era masters. Well accompanied by the fine pianists Richard Goode and Lois Shapiro, modernism be damned, as Beardslee teases out the subtle nuances and effervescent rhythmic feeling of these composers, particularly so on Franz Schubert’s bridging work between the Classical and Romantic eras. Of note here is the beautiful minor lied Gretchen am Spinnrade, which reminds listeners of the fact that the Faust legend remains relevant fodder for interpretation and exploration. With able accompaniment and clarity of recording, these compositions are not presented as ossified period-piece repertoire, but rather joyful texts capable of lifting the spirit. Andrew Scott CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Fantasia Incantata Ensemble Libro Primo; Sabine Stoffer; Alex McCartney Veterum Musica VM018 (veterummusica.com) !! In the 17th century shortly before the unfettered Baroque genius of J.S. Bach began to unfold, the violin consolidated its position as expressively the most wide-ranging of non-keyboard instruments. In the age of the great violin makers – Amati and Stradivari – and performers such as Corelli, Italy was the centre of instrumental prowess and the art of improvising, referred to in the treatise Musurgia universalis by the highly respected pedagogue of the day, Athanasius Kircher. And among the finest composers and virtuosos of the day was Heinrich Biber, with whose lesser-known Sonata IV the eloquent duo of violinist Sabine Stoffer and theorboist Alex McCartney close their remarkable Fantasia Incantata. Released both on CD and vinyl – an infinitely more rewarding experience for the audiophile – this album of Renaissance sinfonies, sonatas, aires, and other period songs and dances is a riveting account of music of the day, where improvisation was key to the prevailing sense of musical adventure and joie de vivre tempered by the amazing sonorities of violin and theorbo. Biber’s Sonata IV is preceded by performances of music by violinists Giovanni Buonaventura Viviani, Nicola Matteis, Biagio Marini, Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli and theorboist Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger. All the works were written as vehicles for those instrumentalists’ own prodigious virtuosity. As treated here by Stoffer and McCartney, they are stunning, highly inventive and the finest examples today of technically demanding works played with ease. Both play as though they have this music in their veins, so assured and full of flair are these performances. Raul da Gama François Devienne – Flute Concerto No.13; Symphonies concertante for two flutes; Giovanni Battista Viotti – Violin Concerto No.23 (transcribed for flute) Patrick Gallois; Per Flemstrøm; Swedish Chamber Orchestra Naxos 8.573697 (naxos.com) !! Here are two composers who deserve a wide audience. Devienne’s training comprised service with a French army regiment, the orchestra of the Opéra in Paris and the chamber orchestra of a French cardinal. In 1782, aged 23, Devienne made his first solo appearance, probably performing his own Flute Concerto No.1. It is this and Devienne’s 12 subsequent flute concertos that Patrick Gallois has undertaken and now completed with the current release. After a vigorous Allegro, Gallois interprets the Romance: Andante with a sensitivity enhanced by the accompanying strings. Another Allegro movement concludes this lively interpretation of Devienne’s final flute concerto. At this point, Per Flemstrøm joins Gallois in Devienne’s Symphonies concertante Nos.3 and 6. This is bittersweet, as Flemstrøm died in 2017: the CD is dedicated to his memory and his spirited flute playing becomes apparent in the Allegro of No.6. More studied is his interpretation of the Moderato in No.3, played with thoughtfulness and feeling. And then there is Giovanni Battista Viotti, back to Gallois as soloist aided by his own cadenzas. This is perhaps the most demanding composition on this CD, with its complex scoring in both the opening Allegro and the concluding Rondo: Allegro. It is, in fact, the string section that creates the more intense quality of this concerto as a whole. All in all, a display of the overlooked talents of Devienne and Viotti – and a worthy tribute to Per Flemstrøm. Michael Schwartz Mussorgsky/Gorchakov – Pictures at an Exhibition; Prokofiev – Cinderella Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra; Miguel Harth-Bedoya FWSO ((LIVE)) (fwsymphony.org) ! ! Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is probably the most popular piece of Russian Romantic program music and nowadays one thewholenote.com October 2018 | 71

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019
Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

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